By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP —
It might be February, but the Pymatuning Valley boys basketball team flooded Grand Valley in the first and third quarters in dropping the Mustangs, 64-47, in Northeasterm Athletic Conference play.
“We watched films of our last game with GV,” PV coach Ryan Fitch said. “They have some kids who can shoot, so we knew we had to close out on them in a hurry to contain their shooters and to limit their dribble-drive opportunities. We did a good job of getting it done tonight.”
That defensive effort and some torrid shooting of their own enabled PV (14-4, 9-2) to go on a 16-0 run in the first period covering 4:07 to open an 18-4 lead.
The Mustangs (3-15, 2-9) clawed their way back into the game to a point where a pair of Gabe Kovats free throws at the 7:21 mark of the third quarter made it a 32-30 game.
After a brief lull in the action, Austin Nowakowski found Tim Cross with 5:35 left for a short jumper that stopped that run for GV and ignited another big Laker spurt.
This one also was a 16-0 run, covering a 3:05 span, and the Mustangs could only narrow the gap again after it reached 25 points, 64-39, with 3:50 to play.
The Lakers have built their fine record on the strength of two big scorers and able support from others, while the Mustangs have struggled to find a scoring threat to go with Jake Vormelker on a regular basis.
Vormelker netted 18 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.
“Grant usually gets the tough defensive assignments for our team,” Fitch said. “He does a fundamentally sound job and isn’t afraid to go inside with the big boys to rebound. Quintin (Ratliff) is just a great athlete, Tim (Cross) does it all, and the other kids can pick us up if we need it. When we’re having a rough night scoring, our defense can carry us.”
Ratliff had a big night with 24 points and nine rebounds. Cross had a solid game with 19 points and seven assists. He ended up with 14 points.
That was the bulk of the Laker scoring.
The Mustangs got 14 points from Stanley Sirrine to back Vormelker, but the Mustangs hit only 30.4 percent from the floor in their uphill battle back from that early deficit, and were not able to quite make it all the way.
“Leading into this game tonight our last three games have been battles,” GV coach Luke Strohm said. “Tonight, we just dug ourselves too big a hole to get out of, but we tried hard. The kids never let up. We tried to carry the momentum for a while, then they had another run in the third period and that was it.
“We had our chances that we were looking for. We just couldn’t knock down the shots. When that happens, players like Cross and Ratliff can make things happen in a hurry, and they did tonight.”
“Things go best for us when we are going into transition,” Fitch said. “ Grand Valley always is tough, but we were able to pick it up in the second half.”